‘I was first introduced to Playladders several years ago. I have used it with Early Years staff "who may not necessarily have a specialist knowledge of special educational needs or time for intensive individual assessment" and it has lived up to its aims of providing "a method of assessing and recording" and "ideas on how to help the child move on to the next step."

Skills are divided into hierarchies under the following "user-friendly" headings: large spaces, table games, let’s pretend, all the time, book corner, music corner, and messy play. Although these headings differ from those in the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority 2000), essentially the same skill areas are covered. Playladders, however, pinpoints specific key skills that could be observed and then taught as appropriate.

With the revised SEN Code of Practice now being extended into all Early Years Provision, the professional publication of Playladders is timely. I would recommend it to newly appointed Early Years educationalists as a useful starting point for on-going assessment. The booklet itself also acts as a good record of an individual child’s progress over time for the educational psychologist.

Starting Out aims to help parents, carers and early year educators to prepare a child for starting at a new school and record information that the child can take with her/him. I think it would work most successfully with a more verbal 4 or 5-year-old child and is possibly aimed more at children with a physical difficulty.

Taking Part is written for older pupils (up to the age of 8 or 9 is suggested) to help them become involved in the process of Formal Assessment. It aims to encourage the child to think about the help she/he would like and explains, in simple language, what will happen and who she/he will meet. There is a photocopiable form at the end of the booklet, which can be used to record the child’s contribution to the Statutory Assessment.

Both booklets suggest specific questions to discuss with the child and there are spaces for the child to record information about herself/himself. They provide a good forum for discussing some difficult issues with children in a sensitive way, without being patronising. The language values all people as individuals and discusses difference in a positive way. Many of the questions raised would also be valuable as discussion topics for the whole class.

Again, the publication of these booklets is timely as there is increasing discussion of the desirability of involving pupils more actively in the process of assessment. Both booklets would help to increase a child’s understanding of his/her own situation and enable him/her to participate in the assessment process through, for example, identifying positive achievements and things they would need more help with. Taking Part is a valuable contribution towards consulting with children at the Statutory Assessment Stage.’

Reviewed in Educational Psychology in Practice (2001)


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This book is designed for mainstream nursery and early years educators who have children with special educational needs in their classrooms. It gives a format for assessing and recording what the child can do, and a focus for the next step.

It looks clear and simple to use.

Reviewed in SATIPS, 2002

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More about the author, Hannah Mortimer